IDS working papers;199

Governing modern agricultural biotechnology in Kenya : implications for food security

Published on 1 January 2003

This report reviews governance issues of modern biotechnology. The study used two case studies of
transgenic sweet potato and Bt maize to examine how governance issues influence household and national
food security in the country. The report argues that for biotechnology to engender food security in Kenya
in the context of globalisation and international governance, the national context for biotechnology has to
be facilitative. More specifically, there is need to synchronise biotechnology development with national
development imperatives taking into account structural limitations that could negate gains made through
biotechnology activities.
Five key findings emerge from this report. First, alleviating rural poverty and food insecurity in Kenya
requires changes at the local, national and international levels because of the inter-connectedness of
agricultural systems and development in general. Second, developments in agricultural biotechnology will
require slow and careful policy planning and implementation in order to improve food security of
smallholders and reduce possible negative and socio-economic impacts of technology. Third, the Kenyan
public sector will continue to play an important role in the biotechnology development because this area of
research is crucial to the national and local interests. Fourth, the transfer of agricultural biotechnology to
developing countries as advocated by international agencies and their national collaborators is a risky
undertaking, particularly when it proceeds faster than the capacity of the state to cope with the
management of new knowledge. Fifth and finally, while recognising that agricultural biotechnology has
potential to alleviate food insecurity in rural Kenya, its programmes must be strongly linked to the
interests of smallholders and institutions that support local participation.

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